Introducing Miss Em

Monday, May 26, 2008

You've seen Miss Em's name strewn throughout my blog, and the reason is simple: I adore her. She's a bookseller in a far-from-me place; she's vibrant, reliable, multiply gifted. Her Miss Em's Bookshelf blog—rich with interviews, contests, insights; stoked with community; so not Emily Gould (see yesterday's NYTM)—has quickly emerged as a sun-blasted destination for readers of YA books. I've had the privilege of being interviewed by Miss Em twice, which means I've been forced to think about my own work and purpose in new and frankly rather thrilling ways, but the fact is: I have always wanted to be on the other side of the conversation; I've wanted to be the one asking the questions.

A few days ago, she agreed to an intervview. She even sent this adorable photograph along, which made me wonder, Miss Em, why the heck someone this ANTM-worthy would be represented by a photograph of her own (okay, they're great, but still) shoes on her blog.

One last thing: If Miss Em were posting this blog it would be full of fancy graphics. I have ZERO idea how that gets done. I can't even figure out how to bold and italicize the most important parts, working, as I am, within the limitations of Safari. I can just say, thank you, Miss Em, for making time for me here.

You love books, clearly, and you care about craft. Where does a passion that runs as deeply as yours come from?

I think I've always loved books. Back when I was a little girl and had a (very) limited world view, I told my parents that I was going to read every single book that had ever been printed. I eventually realized that it would be impossible to read all the books ever written, though that didn't stop my love of reading. A few years ago, I worked part-time at a bookstore. I think that is where I really fell head-over-heels in love with books and with helping other people discover great books. There are so many books that I am passionate about and it's fun to share that love with other people. That's why I enjoy blogging. I've gotten so many great recommendations from other bloggers.

Where is your favorite place to read, your favorite weather to read against?

I love rainy days and I'm currently living in a place where it never rains. So my favorite place to read would be in a comfy chair anywhere that rain is falling outside.

You seem to have an abundance of talents—as a writer, as a designer, as a dancer, even. If you were to design a perfect day for yourself, what would it look like?

I would want to start my day doing something outdoors. A few years ago I took up rock climbing so perhaps I would start out climbing with a few friends. Then, we'd have to pack it up because it started raining. Yes, there would definitely be rain in my perfect day. Then I'd spend the afternoon at the beach, enjoying a little swimming and a little reading. Dancing would be a perfect end to the day. Now if I had a perfect week, then I might try my hand at writing...

In your life, you have met many authors. Can you by now spot an author walking down the street? Is there always a hint of the writerly about such folks?

Ohh, good question. I would love to think that writers have a detectable air about them. But no, I can't tell writers from the rest of us. I've met enough authors to know that they are never what you would expect.

You mentioned once a yearning for writing something yourself. Is there anything you might tell us about a project that pulses within?

There's nothing concrete but I do know a couple of directions that I would lean towards. The first would be a novel about a mother and daughter. My mom has been the most influential person in my life. There's so much I can share with her and, as a result, I'm drawn to any story that has a mother and daughter at its center. The other would be a story about four unlikely friends. In college, I met three girls who were nothing like me and, quite honestly, it scared me that I had to live with them for a year. I ended up choosing to live with them for the rest of college and boy, the stories I could tell.

You are in a position to keep your finger on the pulse of readerly preferences and delights. What still moves readers' hearts? What do they come out to independent bookstores seeking?

I work at a very successful independent bookstore and what strikes me the most is that people are looking for a dialogue. They are looking for conversations. Not just between a customer and a bookseller, although those are often fun conversations. They are looking for a conversation with the author. I think we all want a book to entertain us and we also want it to connect to our lives. To teach us something. Or to illuminate some part of ourselves. I think you can find that at any bookstore but there is a unique atmosphere at independent bookstores that I really appreciate. It's the thought that around the corner anything could be waiting.

Your book blog is widely followed. How do you suspect most readers found you? How does it feel to have so many looking to you for insights and opinions?

I started my blog initially as just a way to keep track of what I read (I'm notoriously bad about remembering character names and plot elements). Then I realized that there is this whole community out there of booklovers. I started leaving comments on other blogs and eventually people found their way to mine. The more I blogged the more I realized that some of my favorite teen books were being banned in school libraries. I feel like high school is a time when you need books the most - what better tool to help you figure out the world? So now my mission is a little more directed and serious. I want to provide a forum that discusses teen books in an open and constructive way. So it feels really good that people visit my blog and it's always exciting to have readers ask for an opinion or leave their own.

What's the best book-related question you've ever been asked?

Wow, I'm thinking this may be the best book-related question I've ever been asked...because it's so hard to answer! How about if I could have any signed, first edition book, what would it be? Someone asked me that recently and it left me debating back and forth. Here's my top four answers (of the moment): Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone, A Light in August by William Faulkner, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Paradise Lost by John Milton. What about you - if you could have any signed, first edition, what would it be?

What's the most pressing book-related question you've yet to find an answer to?

When will I get my hands on a copy of your next book? :-)


Erin said...

How cool was this? An author interviewing a bookster. And I adore Em, too - she's so sweet and her blog rocks!

Beth Kephart said...


She's tremendous, and those of you who have rallied around her represent so much that is right and good to me.

Someday I'll want to know just precisely who is behind that charming pic of yours.

Beware. Be ready.


Em said...

This looks great! Thanks for interviewing me. I thoroughly enjoyed coming up with answers to your very thought-provoking questions. And all the lovely compliments...I'm blushing. :-)

Little Willow said...

I love it! Way to turn the tables. And that picture, Em, is so very YA book cover-worthy. Do write that book, and keep promoting good books, and dancing, and reading, and exploring! (I'm going to post this at Em's blog too, so she doesn't miss it!)

Little Willow said...

I love it! Way to turn the tables. And that picture, Em, is so very YA book cover-worthy. Do write that book, and keep promoting good books, and dancing, and reading, and exploring! (I'm going to post this at Em's blog too, so she doesn't miss it!)

the story siren said...

how very nice! awesome idea! i enjoyed getting to know another side of em!

Nurin said...

haha wow that was awesome (and I loved the twist of the author interviewing the blogger)
;) And I love Em's blog.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Nice interview! It is cool to see an author interviewing a blogger. It was good fun to read.


Melissa Walker said...

Great idea, Beth! I loved hearing more about Miss Em. As usual, you lead the way to fun.

Mari said...

What a nice twist. :)
Em is great. I actually just won a copy of House of Dance from her. I can't wait to read it.

paperxxflowers said...

This is sooo cool :]
Thanks for bringing us into the world of Em-dom!

Tasha said...

So neat. You guys both are huge sweethearts. I loved reading all Em's responses. Great idea and interview.

Lenore Appelhans said...

YAY for such a fun feature and clever idea. I really love the online book community :)

CaitlĂ­n said...

Awesome! Em's reviews are always great.

I just found this site, which may help you with filling your blog with more of your own wonderful photographs:

Sookie said...

Cool interview :-)
I hadn't heard of an author interviewing a book-reviewer/blogger before!

Beth Kephart said...


Just a note to say thanks for stopping by the blog, and for your comment. I genuinely enjoy conversation (as opposed to monologue) and have felt quite privileged to be able to ask special people such as Miss Em to tell me a little about them.

Hoping to keep conducting such interviews.

Beth Fehlbaum, Author said...

I really liked reading that... now, if I can just get Em to be willing to read my upcoming release and post about it on her site....
Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
Chapter 1 is online!

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